I have been playing the violin for six years now, and a few months ago I noticed that I have acquired a red mark right under my chin on the left side. I think I might have gotten the mark earlier than that, but it didn't hurt when I play until fairly recently.
So does every violin player have a similar mark under his or her chin? Does it hurt you when you put your violin under your chin? If so, what do you do to remedy that? I tried putting lotion on every night, but it's not helping much. Any advice would be appreciated.
Hi stephanie, Yes many violinists get the red mark on their neck after many years of practise. There are lots of threads on here about the violinsts hickey.As for the pain I'm not really sure what you can do, many people reccomend a strad pad which i think you can buy online and at many music shops. As far as I can tell its a kind of cloth that stops the skin irritation by going between your neck and the violin.
Hope this helps, best wishes
From Evelyn Ray
Posted on May 10, 2005 at 10:29 AM
I've heard it refered to as a violin "hickey". They seem quite common, but I've also heard horror stories of inflamation. I've been patiently waiting for one to appear. I will wear it proudly in honor of my hard work...just kidding.
Awww how often i want to physically hurt my family member when i see them and they all ask "oooooooo who gave you the hicky". I somtimes call it a practice mark as well because it sounds a little nicer. What i've been doing to overcome the problem is using a cream but also i found this little pouch think made of velvet and wrapped the chord around the chin rest and it just stays on there.
The violinist's hickey... yes, it is common. Many violinists have them. The are the result of friction between the chinrest and skin. If you don't have one, just be happy.
If the hickey is hurting, then it could be the sign of something else, like holding the violin too tight with you neck, or a chinrest that is not appropriate to you.
Personally, I don't get much of one. I have a comfortable chinrest that suits me and I have fixed most errors in my setup and it has basically disappeared. Even though I have the fiddle in hand for a ridiculous amount of hours a day, my skin barely gets pink. In the past, I use to get a big one (bad chinrest, and other bad habits).
Those pad things are not the answer in my opinion. The just mask the problem. The problem is a chinrest that doesn't work for you. I would shop around for something different and better suited to you. And make sure that your setup (using the appropriate shoulder rest set correctly is you use one), is good and relax. I am strange, but I see it as a sign that something needs attention, more than anything else.
One last thing, make sure that you clean the chinrest surface with alcohol regularly to eliminate bacteria that can cause infection.
I have this affliction in a bad way. I started getting the mark when I was maybe 15 after an hour or two of practice... but I think I got hypersensitive and now I get the red mark after playing only 15 minutes. and it hurts. when I get the time, I will try to figure out what the problem is; I would guess that it is caused by a bad chinrest combined with a too-high shoulder rest. and holding the violin in a death grip.
I have also tried many many ways to get rid of it. But to no avail. Actually, currently, the only method I can think of to ameliorate the hickey is to not practice violin for a week LOL. That works 100% of the time, unless it is terribly inflamed or is infected. :)
I know this may seem a little odd to ask and it's a bit off the topic- but does anyone not have a violin "hicky"? I've been playing for 11 years, I practice a lot, but I don't get a hicky. Good jaw structure (I have a jaw like a bear!) and resilient skin might be to cause, but I've often had people doubt that I've been practicing because of lack thereof! Does anyone else seem to have this "problem"?
My teacher used to call it a "mark of distinction" (which I like very much)!
I've had it for a very long time; not a big one, usually. When I played a viola for a couple of years, it'd get much more prominent and really looked like a hickey (it was high-school, so you can imagine the comments I used to get!). I guess it sort-of is a hickey, actually, just from a different kind of love...
Now, it's a permanent callous. It gets a little pink sometimes, but mostly it's just a patch of tougher skin.
I get the "hickey" too. Usually I notice it the most when I've had an excruciating practice, and I've got the Vulcan Death Grip with my chin and my violin. My mom used to call it the "kiss of bethoven" and it makes me smile every time I see it. :) Cherish the violin hickey, not everyone is blessed enough to get them. J/K :)
I don't really have a "hicky" but it looks more like a patch of different textured skin. A callous maybe? Is this still a sign of too much clamping, or just from the friction of the violin being there? I have been trying to re-evaluate my set-up lately and wonder if I should concentrate on that as well?
Sarah, it's normal that the skin will be tougher. I don't think that is much of anything. But the permanent red hickies that people get are usually a sign of problems. I think that if you get nothing except a little tougher skin, then it's probably fine.
On the subject of setup, it is the key to all and kudos for having the strenght to revisit that. I do it all the time. I find that every obstacle removed in that regard is the key to progress.
Mine used to get really inflammed once or twice a year, usually just before a recital. Now it's just a patch of slightly dark rough skin that doesn't change much-- gets a little redder while practicing, but only because i have really fair skin, not because it's at all inflammed. One (kind of weird) thing that works to help bring the inflammation down is to put finely ground cornstarch on it-- sounds funny, but it actually works!
I used to get one. I haven't had one for years (knock on wood). I hope it isn't contagious like the infamous hissing E string. Seriously, I agree with Christian, it's all in the setup. I used to grip way too tight. I changed rests several times over the years and now feel very comfortable. No hickey even after five or six hours a day
I also agree. The only times I used to get that red, itchy hickey is when I had faults/tension in my setup. (Although, there was one time I was playing for a good amount of weeks in a snowy climate, too).
I haven't had one now in a long time. (And, yup, I know personally that re-visiting your setup/technique can be troublesome and frustrating, but I am so ever glad I did, and still do!)
I've always had the hickey when actively playing. I cut up soft terry towels into squares or rectangles about 4 by 6 or so and lay one over the chinrest when I play. I sometimes don't use one when performing so that I am more in touch with the vibrations of my fiddle, and that always makes the "kiss of Beethoven" more irritated. For me, I don't think it's setup so much as that I have sensitive skin that marks easily.
You're still breaking in THE VIOLIN HICKEY which is why it hurts. It will stop paining you after a while. Out of curiosity, have you been practicing more than usual? Cause that's when I broke mine in last year...hm...
From Julia S
Posted on September 24, 2005 at 02:33 PM
People have told me I get a mark under my neck when I practice, but it has never hurt me.
Bethany, if you are getting pus, then it is a sign of infection. You need to treat that right away to avoid more serious problem. Also clean your chinrest with isopropyl alcohol to kill any bacteria present which may make matters worse.
Someimtes when I was a teen, my "violin hickey" would be superimposed over a zit just from the friction and overactive oil glands from being a teen. Perhaps Bethany's is nothing more than this??? But still- disinfect because any discharge is a sign of infection weather serious or not (like a zit).
Wow thanks so much. I knew that it wasn't normal...but you did help me alot. yes I am practicing alot more than usual, because I have alot of camp auditions and scholarship auditions coming up soon, and I have alot of pressure on me to do well on them. Thank you so much, I will try all that you asked me to do, I'm sure that It will all work.
A friend of mine recently introduced himself to Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. He went up to her after a concert and said, "Hello, finally we can meet, I'm the violinist ______ __________. Nice job tonight!" She took one look at the left side of his neck and said, "Jesus, you must not ever practice. You're a violinist?!"
I have a rough spot on my neck all the time, even when I'm not practicing. But even if I'm practicing for not very long every day, like two or three hours I get a "hickey". But don't worry if you don't get one because I've known people who practice alot and don't get one. Some people's skin is just more sensitive.
And since we're on this topic, I've never found playing with a cloth over my chinrest comfortable at all. Actually it's much more difficult to actually keep the violin under your chin that way.
From Diane Lai
Posted on September 25, 2005 at 08:03 PM
I don't consider it a hickey. I consider it a 'badge of honor'. When other people tell me that they play violin (or viola), I totally look at a person's neck to see if they are really serious about it.
About cloths...I found that getting a really soft cotton cloth helped me prevent pus. (ie, like a baby's cloth). Some of my friends prefer silk or something smoother and thinner than cotton. However, I like it because there is more friction to hold up the violin.
A hickey has nothing to do with how long you have the fiddle in hand. I sometimes get a mark it I have the fiddle in hand for more that 8 hours in a day, but even then, rarely so. It must have to do with other factors, many of which have been mentioned above, but time does not appear to have anything to do with it.
From Jeemin Kim
Posted on September 26, 2005 at 04:39 AM
I've been playing for fifteen years and I too have never had the chinrest mark, not once, not even around the time when I was practicing like 8 hours everyday.. (I was middle school violin major for a while) I do have seen a few of these kinds of people(violin majors and professionals), so I don't think we're totally alone, Christina.
When I was younger, I was almost ashamed of not having one, because all the other kids (who were good) and teachers had the mark. Kids would talk about their "pride marks", how they take care of them and all, and I'd quietly turn my head away so people couldn't see my chin. Sometimes I thought I might not be gripping hard enough(!!) and tried to grind my chin more when practicing..!!! (I know, WTF??) Strange and just plain stupid as it might sound, this was a lot of stress for a young teenager.
I can't say I'm the greatest violinist now, but it is quite discomforting to read things like "violin hickey is the proof whether you're serious or not", or "if you don't have it, you're not practicing" because even though I know I can just ignore these from my own experience, I can't help but think that there will be others younger and more impressionable who will become ashamed and embarrassed of themselves from reading such remarks.
I understand that you're just trying to be encouraging to each other because having the mark sometimes can be a bit of pain, but please be cautious not to bring down "the other crowd" for no right reasons.
I agree with Lauren....some people have very sensative skin and will get the mark easier than those who don't have sensative skin. I think dermatologists have stated and would agree that the coloration of the person may indicate the sensativity level of the skin. For example, as a red-head, I am more susceptable to sunburn and skin irritations than someone of a darker hue. So this means I would get a violin mark easier too, or at least that it would show up more vividly on my pale neck as there is no pigment there to mask the contrast of the callous color. I would also say the callous is brighter on days when I am playing with too much tension in my set-up. So I imagine it very possible that a person could have a relaxed set-up and perhaps olive complexion and show no violin mark at all.
Jeenim - thanks. I agree - and I guess I am in the same lot as you. As a professional playing all the time, I do get comments like "Do you practice... no seriously." and things like that because, I don't get a mark, even with the fiddle in hand all day.
I have one slightly, and it get's more visible as I practice more. I've named it after my teacher. I'm glad my skin is sensative, because I'm proud of mine. If someone doesn't have one, it doesn't bother me, but I tend to think of them as being more serious if I see one. (Maybe you could try some blush or something when you're not playing? ;)
Try different chinrests. I've played for 40+ years and am quite sure that sharp-ish edges at the edge of the rest that touch your body are a prime culprit. Since I switched to the Guarneri model, and made sure the back edge was rounded enough, my problems went away.
I've never gotten a red mark under my chin, but I do have a (What I believe to be) permanent "hickey" under my jaw. It's rougher than the rest of my skin, and is actually just a darker shade of tan. Is this natural for asian violinists? Or is it the result of another problem? As far as I know, I don't put too much pressure on my chin rest, and it's not very sharp either.
I'm an Asian violinist, and I have no hickey under my chin despite 3-5 hours of practice and gigging a day. That's also despite having unusually soft skin even for an Asian.
I do have a slight grayish hickey on my collarbone where the violin sits. Fortunately it neither hurts nor bleeds.
When I was younger, I used to have hickeys all the time when I was experimenting with different style chinrests and shoulder rests and postures. Now I use a side mounted flat chinrest and no shoulder rest. That worked the best for me.
From Paul Cook
Posted on June 23, 2006 at 05:24 PM
I recently rededicated myself to the violin after many years of somewhat casual playing. Once I started practicing more than an hour a day, the hickey started to be a problem. Changing the chinrest and concentrating on relaxed, really really relaxed playing, have reduced it to almost nothing.
Just a note about disinfecting things, if you are using isopropyl alcohol, you should remove the chinrest from the violin first. Alcohol will take the varnish right off the violin.
"Kiss of Beethoven"-- I like that. My own euphemism is "[violinist's] mark of integrity", but I should emphasize that different set-ups and different skins (mine is a sensitive Scandinavian type) don't necessarily hickey-ize, and I do NOT mean to imply that players lacking the hickey are necessarily lacking in hours on instrument or in integrity.... With same set-up and regular cleaning/ disinfecting and many hours on, I have mysteriously gained or lost the hickey at different times. Not shaving definitely helps, but isn't practical in the long run. I usually keep a fashionably-defensible Keifer Sutherland kind of short scruff, so I'm close-trimmed but not really shaving the skin, and that helps me reduce violinist's hickey. :-)
I haven't had any such mark in many years, the same number of years that I have used some sort of covering over the chinrest - plus I use very little pressure, even when down-shifting. Do experiment with different setups, coverings, etc. If it gets really bad, as someone else suggested, you ought to see a doctor.
Many years ago I had a red mark on my neck from hours of practicing and I decided to do something about it. I told my violin repair man about it and he told me that he would experiment with the chin rest and round it off by creating gentle curves where the chin rest touched my neck. After that, he polished off the chin rest and made it extra smooth.
I don't use a chin rest on my primary violin, only my modern violin, I still have a 'sore' or whatever you wish to call it. It's not tougher, probobly softer. It's not painful, but it does gush blood if I have to much gusto whilst shaving.
From Laura Yeh
Posted on June 26, 2006 at 07:12 AM
The main thing is to keep both the spot and the chinrest clean. Usually when the spot is painful it's just a pimple because of excess oil. Using a little astringent on your neck to be sure you've cleaned the "hickey" well isn't a bad idea. In high school I used a Strad pad and I actually found it to be worse since it was harder to keep the Strad Pad clean. Those Strad Pads can actually get pretty gross after a while, even with washing them. I now use a Whittner hypo-allergenic chinrest which helps quite a bit. (It's incredibly comfortable and easy to have a relaxed position with or without a shoulder rest.) Between that and keeping the chinrest clean I haven't had any discomfort.
From Jonathan B
Posted on July 1, 2006 at 05:21 AM
It seems to me that there is almost no way to avoid a small irritated area where the chin meets the chinrest. I can't ever recall having a problem of it chafing or getting infected or sore, but it is slightly callused over, like the slight callused fingertips of your left hand. In fact, mine has slightly lost some feeling in it, just like any other callus.
I've always thought that this is a detail that should go in some detective story somewhere. The detective figures out that the suspect is a violinist because he (or she) notices that the suspect has this callus underneath his chin on the left side.
From Vivian Guo
Posted on July 2, 2006 at 02:45 AM
[quote] If the hickey is hurting, then it could be the sign of something else, like holding the violin too tight with you neck, or a chinrest that is not appropriate to you. [/quote]
I have not played for long (both in senority and in practing session) and I also had red mark and it hurt. It turned out that the center-mount chinset was bad for me; so I switch to a guarneri. It doesn't hurt as much and if I am careful, it sometimes doesn't hurt at all.
So I guess the chinrest does make a big difference.
...I was just thinking...(yes, I know)...I wonder if the hickey correlates to using a shoulder rest? I don't use one (they hurt!) and I've never had a hickey...but everyone I know with a hickey, does use a shoulder rest!...
...I do have a problem with my viola though...the hardwear from the chinrest creates some serious bruising on my collarbone...pads help, but if the pad is thick enough to prevent bruising, it's usually too thick for overall comfort...anyone else have this problem?...
Sander, There was a Monk episode like that once. Only it wasn't the violin hickey. It was the callous on the fingertip. I would think the violin hickey would be a bit too obvious for a good mystery, but who knows....I'm not a mystery writer! -Laura
"...everyone I know with a hickey, does use a shoulder rest!..."
I use a shoulder rest - I have a very high neck and a slender, sloping shoulder! - But I don't have a hickey. I used to, though, when I was clutching too tightly and using a lot of excess tension in my playing. Also, it would get worse with cold or dry weather.
But, currently, for a long while now, no hickey! :)
I have a permanent mark, which is generally not very noticeable, just a patch of dry tough skin, put when i start doing 9 hours a day (like i did last week at a course!) it becomes very noticeable, I think it may be due to the fact that after 8-9 hours i get tired and posture is not as good.
For those in high school, I must agree, you get many awkward comments, not as bad as the look I got from my grandfather last week!!, but hey, let people think what they want, you know the truth. I agree with what was previously said...I wear mine proudly and have no intention of stopping practice for a week to get rid of it!!
also.....someone told me its called a violinist's 'rose'....slightly better than hickey, wouldnt you agree???
From Jenny Coon
Posted on July 17, 2006 at 04:58 AM
Has anybody ever had their hickey suddenly puff up? I haven't been practicing much this summer. I haven't touched my violin in about 2 weeks, and as a matter of fact it's in the shop right now for some soundpost work.
But Thursday night I noticed that it was a little sore, and Friday morning it puffed up. It's been over 2 days now and it's swollen up something awful. It looks like a cross between a giant killer bug bite and a lymph node problem. There is no open wound and it's not leaking any pus, so I don't know what happened, only that the actual hickey itself is sticking about 1cm off my neck. It stings and itches, and there's a ring of extreme tenderness right around the swollen part; I can feel a hard lump there. I tried putting hydrocortisone and Neosporin on it, but it didn't do anything and it just hurt something awful trying to touch it. I spent half of tonight with a bag of frozen peas against my neck, which provided temporary relief, but I had to stop when the bag thawed out. It hurts to turn my head in either direction and look up or down, and sneezing and sitting up in bed isn't much fun, either, as whenever I flex the muscles on the left side of my neck, it hurts.
I've had a violin hickey for years now and never had anything like this before. It was sore occasionally, but it always went away when I stopped playing and ended there. Now it bothers me even when I'm eating, as it's in the perfect spot to make opening my mouth too wide to take a big bite rather uncomfortable.
Obviously I'm headed for the doctor tomorrow, but I'm kind of bewildered, as I've barely been playing at all since I got home from school, so it can't be overwork or bad positioning. I'm hoping it's just an infection and they can give me antibiotics or cream or something, but I'm worried they might want to surgically remove it. This is putting the kibosh on my chamber music plans for the summer, so I'm really annoyed.
Has anyone had anything like this before? I'm pretty worried.
Jenny, OMG! Let us know what the MD says. I think you're right - infection, a subcutaneous (sp?) inflammation. Yucko, though.
From Jenny Coon
Posted on July 17, 2006 at 08:46 PM
OK, folks. I went to the doctor. It's a majorly infected abscess under the skin (yeah, it started leaking pus this morning, gross!) They think it may be a coincidence that it popped up right under my violin hickey, but there's really no way to tell, since nobody really has any idea how it happened. So I'm on antibiotics for the next 10 days and I'm supposed to keep watch to make sure it doesn't spread, which might mean a staph infection. But I do NOT need to have anything surgically removed, although trying to get it to drain sounds really disgusting. I was very glad about this.
Needless to say, I can't practice until the thing goes away. But I'm just glad it can probably be fixed with pills.
Greetings, glad you got treatment quickly. Just a reminder that antiobiotiucs are a double edged sword because they also kill digestive bateria in the gut. After you finish your course of treatment you need to replace these. Unprocessed yoghurt is good if you can get it. It`s not what you get in the local store. Or you can powdered baccilli from helath food stores ort the Internet.I got some sites by googling the following:
I have one as well. It it slowly changing colors from a dark red to almost red and purple. I practice alot of hours now so It is slowly getting more defined. I really don't care though. I don't like clothes under my neck or any padding as it bothers me. My teacher has them on her collar bone and under her neck. But they are scars instead of hickeys. It can get annoying though. My co-workers are always saying something sly here and there. It may also look bad in a job interview. lol.
I know they can either become big bumps, hickeys, and after so long, scars.
Nowadays, I have a few small red bumps, no hickey. I once had a hickey that got infected by an allergic reaction to something in a newer chinrest... OUCH! That thing swelled, oozed, spread all over my jawline and throat, and hurt like crazy! I do not know what it was that set it off exactly, but changing chinrests and using a microfiber cloth for a while helped. No lotions, cleaning, or solvents seemed to do the trick.
People often ask me what I do to avoid a hickey. They know I play hours a day between rehearsal, practice, and teaching. I really don't do anything, and I have very sensitive skin. Go figure.
Officially known as Fiddler's Neck among the arts medicine world, this red mark can be a sign of several things that can combine to produce those painful places. One way to minimize chances of getting something like this is to clean the chinrest regularly with a weak solution of Murphys Oil Soap (available at most grocery stores). The mark can also be minimized by playing with as little head weight as is needed to lightly stabilize the instrument. Also, find places in the music where you can actually lift your head off of the chinrest to provide a little relief. Some players like to cover the chinrest with various materials, and these also should be changed and cleaned frequently. And last, it's a good idea to find a chinrest that conforms to the shape of your jaw so that the weight of your head is evenly distributed over the surface of the chinrest. This avoids the pressure points that get one particular spot irritated.
I am a violist/ violinist and I have found a product that I have used since I was 13. I am now 23 and play professionally. I noticed that string players don’t seem to know about this amazing cream so I started marketing this medicated cream with my cousin who is a Pharmacist. It’s kind of amazing how fast and well it works. I have found that using the Stradpad and cloth become annoying because of every time you take your instrument downyou have to place the cloth back again every time you start playing.And for the Stradpad I feel that it’s too bulky and compromises my playing position. This cream however cleans and heals your Mark, I refer to it as the magic cream. Hope this helps